Yes, the full name is The Character of Islay Whisky Company, but if I write the complete independent bottler name in my title, Google is not going to be happy about the title length. Anyway. We’ve recently reviewed the four Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-year-old batches on More Drams, but we have not reviewed any independent bottling of an Ardbeg before. Maybe because those are quite rare…
Ardbeg 2001 The Character of Islay Whisky Company Review
The whisky that we are trying today is a 2001 vintage Ardbeg single malt, bottled by The Character of Islay Whisky Company (TCIWC) in The Stories of Wind & Wave range. TWIWC is one of the indy bottling branches of Atom Brands (Master of Malt). It has been aged for 18 years in a refill bourbon barrel (cask number 257). With a strength of 54.5% ABV, it was not chill filtered nor coloured. Only 92 bottles were produced, and it was bottled exclusively for La Maison Du Whisky. Sold out almost everywhere, though Bacchus & Tradition still have some, for a hefty €500 to €560 (on offer at the time of writing).
White Burgundy. Large beads on the crown morph to fast descending thin legs.
Neat: Intense and typically Ardbeg, it’s like an Ardbeg Ten cranked to eleven. I’m immediately struck by the intense peat smoke and tar aromas. These are complemented by hints of ashes and camphor, giving the whisky a bold and smoky quality. There are also coastal notes of seaweeds and seashells, adding a fresh and briny character. Underlying all of these flavours are zesty notes of lemon, providing a bright and vibrant contrast. The overall nose is complex and robust, with a hessian-like earthiness that rounds out the aromas.
With water: The smokiness is accentuated, as well as the briny character, whilst the citrusy aromas tend to take the back seat.
Neat: The palate is filled with smoky and peaty flavours, which are balanced by hints of vanilla and subtle sweetness. Citric notes provide a bright and lively contrast, underlined by pepper and spices. There is also a distinct bonfire note, adding to the smoky and earthy character. Smoked fish and a touch of seaweed lend a coastal quality whilst medicinal and herbal notes add some more complexity.
With water: It’s more of the same with water, but even purer and more chiselled.
The finish of this whisky is warm and peaty, with a lingering smoky quality. The herbal notes that were present on the palate become more prominent. There is also a refreshing lemon zest note that adds brightness and liveliness. The camphor from the nose carries through to the finish, which is endless, and I mean it, still have it several minutes after swallowing a sip.
Stunning Ardbeg. The nose is very pure, showing low cask influence and letting the spirit shine. Blind, you totally identify Ardbeg, you really have the same signature as the Ardbeg Ten has. The palate is complex and full-bodied, with a peaty and smoky character that is characteristic of Ardbeg. And what about the finish, that just doesn’t (finish). It is just endless. Absolutely brilliant.
Thanks Benjamin! Bottle pictures courtesy of Whiskybase. Lead picture courtesy of Ardbeg.